Mini Chefs Dish up Maxi Nutrition

This spring Cook Up A Story caught the imagination of a public school teacher in Burlington, Ontario. John Highley, who teaches at Mohawk Gardens Public School, said, “If we can  get the word out to schools, this thing might take right off. I see teachers using Cook Up a Story as a resource in their classrooms for nutrition/health units from grades 1 to 6, as well as the grade 5 chemistry unit.”

Through John’s efforts, the Grade 6 Chefs Challenge started on March 21, 2012, and ran for nine weeks. Taking part were 18 students, 11 and 12 years old.  Each group of 6 students cooked up an appetizer, a main dish, and a dessert over three weeks, using  recipes from Cook Up a Story. While waiting for things to cook, they read some stories.

Young chefs season some Birdies on a Stick

Their Language Arts teacher encouraged them to post on the book’s blog, also named Cook Up A Story. Comments from the kids came in all through the website. I answered their questions and encouraged the kids to keep cooking. Click on “Contact” in the main menu at the top of the screen and “Readers’ comments” on the right to see some of these exchanges.

Vinny Grette, host of the book and author of this blog, is a boy on a mission. He’s out to show children how to eat well for good health, through stories. Vinny’s come up with a half dozen of them… tales where good food sets the mood. He uses these adventures for kids 6 to 12 years old as bridges to recipes, nutrition and food facts. The package aims to encourage healthy eating for the whole family.


“It’s satisfying to hear how excited the kids were about getting into the kitchen to make delicious foods from healthy ingredients,” says Sharon Rudnitski, the writer behind Cook Up A Story. “They started off with Birdies on a stick, seasoned chicken wings roasted on skewers, with less salt than the usual fare. Then they tried their hand at Mademois-Ellie’s meat pie, a party food in French Canada known as Tourtière. And they finished with Melting moments, a chocolate cookie high on taste and fiber and lower on saturated fat and sugar.”

Says Sharon, “The best thing about this after-school program is seeing my ideas being used the way I had hoped they would. With childhood obesity on the rise and nutrition so much more in the news today, I wanted to do something that might help today’s kids navigate all this buzz without feeling threatened.” The word “fat,” never passes Vinny’s lips except to talk about the merits of olive oil versus butter.

Kids get answers

“My website is full of  lots of foodie fun,” says Vinny, while snacking from a fiery bowl of dragon fruit. “I like to write about stuff that kids and their families can savor together. My hope is that the book gets kids interested in good, healthy food basics, so that they want to learn more. When they tap into the website, they can flesh out their nutrition smarts.”

“Vinny is the 12-year-old boy who lives inside all of us, regardless of the passing years,” Sharon muses rather wistfully.  Inspired by kitchen adventures for as long as she can remember, Sharon used her degree in food science to launch a publishing career with the science arm of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Now she enjoys bringing her healthy-eating messages privately to kids in the community.

Sharon published Vinny’s efforts last summer. The book is  illustrated by Pierre Sylvestre who has 20 years of experience as animator and storyboard artist. It’s available through Blurb Bookstores, an on-line publishing service that distributes books around the world. Click on for more details.

Much thanks to John Highley for making the Grade 6 Chefs Challenge such a success!

Vinny hits the schools

Vinny goes to school

Related link

What’s for lunch at Hogwarts? Traditional veggie dishes for British school kids

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